Well, I didn’t think I would see it tonight, but I should have known that it would be repeated. I’m sitting here watching (typing during the commercials) the end of the Science Channel’s presentation of “Mars Underground,” thanks to their “Space Week” programming this month. I have wanted to see this flick ever since accidentally stumbling across the website at www.themarsunderground.com, though I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t longer.
I have to admit: I love this stuff. I first heard of Robert Zubrin’s “Mars Direct” program a long time ago, but I didn’t know much about it, and the Mars Underground program (now over) explained it really well. There is definitely a part of me that believes that we can’t seem to get living on earth right, so isn’t it a waste of time spreading our dysfunction elsewhere? And the money seems hard to justify when there is such a need for more “practical” uses here on our own planet. (Yes, I am aware of the arguments about pushing our technology and motivating new research, and I have made them myself.) Ultimately, there is nagging at me the knowledge of the fact that while man does have a destiny in space — as God has promised to one day give us “all things” (Hebrews 2:6-8) — it is not as fragile little carbon-based lifeforms, but as the glorified children of God (cf. 1 John 3:1-2). Frankly, if we don’t get our spiritual act together the future looks way too bleak to imagine our species surviving long enough to ever achieve the dream setting foot on Mars — let alone the ultimate goal of mankind: establishing a Starbucks on Mars. (Actually, there’s probably one of those already there…)
But even all of that considered, the thought of going to Mars does excite me, and I loved watching the animations depicting the several proposed elements of the Mars Direct program (or even the Mars Semi-Direct program, though I’m not sure why Zubrin added the “Semi” unless it was simply out of personal disappointment that the new plan is a bit more conservative in its safeguards and margins, since it still looked pretty “direct” to me). And part of me thinks, “Hey, if they’re not spending that $55 billion on going to Mars, what other kind of damage to life as we know it would Congress waste it on?”
One of the things that I did not see addressed well enough on the show was the incredibly extreme weather on Mars. I thought they addressed the dangers of exposures to solar radiation and cosmic radiation rather well (if simplistically), and the idea of spinning the crew craft on a tether during the six month trip to accommodate the astronauts to the Martian gravity early was, in my opinion, a very creative concept. But the weather on Mars is more extreme than anything we have experienced on earth. I’ve seen some speculations that the static charge generated by some of the intense dust storms could short out electrical systems, which would make for a really bad day. Still, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity have fared so marvelously that perhaps such a consideration this isn’t much of a mission-prohibitive concern.
In the film Zubrin’s frustration that a generation has passed without this Mars having been explored when it could have been by now (in his estimation), is very clearly communicated. I don’t know if we will see mankind on Mars during his lifetime, but I will be happy to add giving him a ride to Mars to the growing post-first resurrection “to do” list my kids and I have talked about, which currently includes some related items already: visit Voyagers 1 & 2, visit the original Viking lander, visit the current collection of Mars rovers, visit a black hole, et al. (Please understand: I don’t really think that Post-Resurrection Me will be all that interested in actually doing these things after my change has come (cf. Job 14:14) — if the principle behind 1 Corinthians 13:11 applies in this life, I am sure that it will apply to our transition to the next, as well! Yet, Pre-Resurrection Me still finds it fascinating to imagine…)